School History

Greenbriar West Elementary School opened its doors to students for the first time on March 27, 1972. Our first principal, Donald S. Carroll, specifically waited to open our school until mid-year, after construction was fully complete, because he did not want children to have to endure the chaos of attending school in an unfinished building. 615 children were enrolled at Greenbriar West our first year. From September 1971 to March 1972, the students were housed separately at Brookfield, Centreville, Greenbriar East, and London Towne elementary schools.

Cut-out of a newspaper article from April 1972 about the opening of Greenbriar West Elementary School. The article includes a photograph of the main entrance to the building. The text of the article is as follows: Greenbriar West Opens Doors with 615 students. After months of waiting, the $1.2 million Greenbriar West Elementary School officially opened on March 27 with a student enrollment of 615. Fully air-conditioned with most areas carpeted, this facility offers great flexibility in that it provides both open and self-contained classrooms. The use of mobile furniture will enable the teachers to structure the available space and thus vary the classroom to meet the needs of individual students and particular learning situations. For example, the teachers’ station is a mobile unit consisting of a desk, shelves, and drawers, tall enough to act as a room divider, the back of which can then be used as a blackboard, bulletin board or movie screen. Throughout the school the combination of bright colored furniture, floor-to-ceiling windows and carpeting provides a cheery atmosphere. The school days starts at 8:55 a.m. and ends at 3:15 p.m. except for 1:25 p.m. closings on Mondays. The lunch hour is from 12 to 1 p.m., and presently the County requires that all children eat lunch at school. However, Donald Carroll, Greenbriar West principal, indicated his desire to have this changed next year. According to Carroll there will be 11 aides to supervise the lunch hour and a variety of activities will be offered during this period. These will include sports, foreign languages, shop, sewing, arts and crafts, music, reading or a quiet game of chess. Additional volunteer instructors are needed for these programs and anyone interested can contact Mr. Carroll. An informal dedication and open house is planned for Saturday, April 22, from 2 to 4 p.m. The Greenbriar West PTA is well established now, and a new slate of officers will be presented at the next PTA meeting on April 19. Anyone interested in serving on the PTA is urged to c

Design and Construction

Rapid housing development in the late 1960s created significant overcrowding at Greenbriar Elementary School, necessitating the creation of a second elementary school within the Greenbriar subdivision. Greenbriar West Elementary School was built on land donated by Levitt & Sons, the developers of the Greenbriar community.

Advertisement for homes in the Greenbriar neighborhood that appeared in the Washington Post newspaper in October 1972. The headline states the homes were ready to live in, at never before values, starting at $33,500 for a house, by Levitt, the value leader. A limited number of 3 and 4 bedroom homes were available for immediate delivery. Three homes are featured, a 4-bedroom Colonial with 2 1/2 baths, a 4-bedroom Cape Cod with 2 baths, and a 3-bedroom Ranch with 2 baths. The advertisement shows pictures of the front of these three homes. The Colonial and Ranch are listed as having already been sold.
Greenbriar Housing Advertisement, October 1972, Courtesy of the Washington Post

Planning for our school began in November 1967 when the Fairfax County School Board directed FCPS staff to adapt the plans for London Towne Elementary School, designed by the architecture firm of Beery & Rio, for use with “Greenbriar #2 Elementary School.” In December 1970, the Fairfax County School Board awarded the contract for the construction of our school to M. L. Whitlow, Inc. in the amount of $1,195,000. Greenbriar West was originally designed with an enrollment capacity of 780 students. Our building was more expensive to construct than other schools built in the county at that time because it required special soundproofing in the walls, ceiling, and windows due to our school’s location in the flight path to and from Dulles Airport. In April 1971, the School Board renamed the existing Greenbriar Elementary School as Greenbriar East, and officially named our school Greenbriar West.

Three color photographs of Greenbriar West Elementary School during stages of its initial construction. The photograph on the left shows the concrete pad, a partial brick wall, and stack of cinder blocks. Homes of the Greenbriar neighborhood can be seen in the distance. The center photograph shows the exterior walls of the building after they've been partially erected. The grounds in front of the school are very muddy and water has pooled in several places. The photograph on the right shows exterior and interior walls under construction.
Greenbriar West Elementary School Construction, 1971

A Tree is Known by the Fruit it Produces

This well-known proverb was our school’s first theme. Greenbriar West was originally designed as a partially “open-school.” The open-school educational philosophy was very popular among educators in the 1960s and 1970s, resulting in changes to teaching methods and the physical layout of school buildings. At Greenbriar West, students of different grades and age levels were clustered together in what our second principal, Robert Marshall, called "branches.” The branches were named for types of trees, such as Dogwood, Evergreen, Pine, Poplar, and Truffula (an imaginary tree featured in Dr. Seuss’ work The Lorax). Four of the branches were housed in the two-story classroom wing of the building and were clustered around the library. The Truffula branch was located in the hallway across from the gymnasium. Each branch originally had four teachers and about 120 students.

Black and white photograph of the main entrance to Greenbriar West Elementary School. The date the photograph was taken is unknown.

Our Mascot

In April 1972, shortly after our school opened, the Chinese government donated the very first giant pandas to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Named Ling-Ling (a female) and Hsing-Hsing (a male), the pandas were immensely popular and drew millions of visitors from around the world to the National Zoo. In 1981, when Robert Holderbaum became principal of Greenbriar West, he was surprised to find that our school didn't have a school mascot or school colors. A contest was held to choose a mascot and the students, still enthralled with Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, chose the panda. The small panda statue in our school courtyard was placed there following the completion of our most recent renovation (2005-07). The letters G, B, and W are from our original school sign that was replaced during that renovation. The small colorful stones around the panda statute represent baby chickens, or chicks, and are a reminder of a time when second graders used to learn about life cycles by hatching chicken eggs.

Photograph of the panda statue in the courtyard. The panda is looking upward and is eating a bamboo stalk. The letters G, B, W, are placed on the ground in front of the panda. Several small, colorful, stones are placed near the panda and on one of its paws.

The 5 D’s of Discipline

When Principal Marshall came to Greenbriar West in 1978, he brought with him the motto “Kindness is Spoken Here.” Marshall also implemented the 5 D’s of Discipline. In the Greenbriar West Handbook from the 1979-80 school year, Marshall wrote:

We have rules and a code of conduct based on the 5 D’s. These are the guidelines for children’s behavior and the foundation for discipline at Greenbriar West. Essentially, a child may do that which is not disturbing, destructive, disrespectful, dishonest, or dangerous. These guidelines leave room for each child to do considerable thinking and decision-making in terms of specific behavior. A child may decide to run down the hall, but by doing so, he or she violates one of the 5 D’s. It is dangerous and the child knows that the consequence will be to “practice” walking back and forth ten times. He also knows that if he abuses a privilege, he will lose it, and that if he destroys property, he will restore it and be asked to work after school to compensate for the labor involved. Our goal is to provide a balance between adult supervision and student responsibility for self-control and self-discipline.
Black and white photograph of Greenbriar West Elementary School’s second principal, Robert B. Marshall.
Principal Robert B. Marshall

Gifted and Talented

In 1978, Greenbriar West Elementary School was designated a Gifted and Talented Center (GT) for western Fairfax County. About 80 students, identified as gifted and talented, were sent to Greenbriar West from 15 different schools in Fairfax County. Today, GT Centers have been replaced by Advanced Academics Program (AAP) Centers. You can learn more about our school’s advanced academic services here.

Black and white photograph of the main entrance to Greenbriar West Elementary School taken in 1980. The name of the school is on the side of the building. These letters were taken down when the school was renovated.
Greenbriar West Elementary School, 1980

The Panda Press and Panda Post

In the 1980s, a compilation of student drawings, poems, and short stories was compiled annually and published in a volume called The Panda Press. Also during the 1980s, the student government sponsored a monthly school newspaper called The Panda Post. The newspaper featured articles written by classrooms reporters who covered classroom and school events. Copies of the paper were sold before the start of the school day and cost five cents each. The proceeds funded student government activities.  

Flags of the World

During the 1980s, the cafeteria at our school was adorned with flags representing the country of origin of every child at Greenbriar West. Due to fire codes the flags were eventually taken down, but a photograph of some of the flags appears in one of our yearbooks.

Color photograph of at least 42 national flags hanging from the ceiling in the cafeteria at Greenbriar West.

What's in a Name?

Learn about the origin of our school's name in this video produced for Fairfax County Public Schools’ cable television channel Red Apple 21.

Our Principals

1971 – 1978: Donald S. Carroll
1978 – 1981: Robert B. Marshall
1981 – 1983: Robert F. Holderbaum
1983 – 1989: Mary Goins Roots
1989 – 1993: Sue Duka
1993 – 1999: Sara Krause (Gill)
1999 – 2005: John Hilkert
2005 – 2017: Lori Cleveland
2017 – 2020: Patty A. Granada
2020- Present  Andrew Blount